By Ray Hamill — The Arcata Tigers had too much defense for the visiting Hoopa Valley Warriors on Friday night, running out to a 22-14 win at the Redwood Bowl.
The win guarantees Arcata at least a share of the Little 4, the school’s first league title in six years, but the coaches and players weren’t about to celebrate anything just yet.
They want the league crown outright, something they can achieve with a win against Ferndale next weekend.
Friday’s win over the Warriors was achieved with a dominating display on the defensive side of the ball, something we’ve come to expect from Arcata this year, as well as some spectacular running from a pair of young running backs that appear to be getting better and better.
Sophomore Everett Halikas had two touchdown runs in the win, while junior teammate Kien Mazzotti added another.
Brilliant winding run
Halikas broke the deadlock late in the first quarter, finding the end zone on a brilliant winding run that had him go one way and then scramble back across the field, capping it with a stunning move at the one-yard line to avoid a tackle .
He added a second TD at the start of the second half, this time on a 75-yard run.
“He had a hell of a night,” Arcata head coach Jamal Jones said of the sophomore. “Whenever he plays at a high level, our team is better.”
Giving the visitors a heavy load of the two dynamic backs was a part of the plan.
“We wanted to keep the clock going, so we gave them a heavy, heavy load of Everett and Kien,” Jones said.
It worked too, and opened up the passing game for quarterback Matt Robinson, who continues to grow into the position, completing a couple of crucial passes early to keep the Hoopa defense honest.
“They made a couple of more plays than we did,” Hoopa head coach William Simms said.
Tigers on a roll
The win was the fifth in six games for Arcata. which improved to 4-1 in the Little 4 and 5-4 overall, while the Warriors drop to 3-2 and 5-4.
One of Hoopa’s two TDs was on a pass from quarterback John Smith to his brother Leonard Smith, and the other was scored by running back Kimit Peters, who had a big game on both sides of the ball.
Defensively, both teams played well, and offensively both were a little sloppy at times.
They combined for four turnovers in the fourth quarter alone, while red zone letdowns continue to hurt Arcata.
“Sad as it is to say, it’s happened so often to us by now, we know how to respond,” Jones said of the red-zone turnovers, which have plagued his team most of the season.
“Both teams played physical football, intense football,” Simms said.
The win was the second for the Tigers over the Warriors this season.
“We battled with those guys. We rose up to the occasion,” Jones said. “We’ve got a team full of character.”